Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Fight for Freedom (Pass)

London members of Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) have accused local politicians of trying to alter the terms of the Freedom Pass without proper consultation.

The capital’s pensioners have issued a damning criticism of London Councils latest attempt to weaken the scope and management of the Freedom Pass; pledging to mount a campaign to oppose the changes.
On August 20, London Councils issued a consultation paper aimed at changing the Freedom Pass, but the deadline for views on the proposals is October 22 – at least a week before councillors in Bromley, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Bexley, Westminster, Harrow and Hillingdon are expected to discuss the proposals.

Those behind the changes claim it will make minor amendments to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 in relation to the concessionary fares scheme for older and disabled Londoners – but there is serious concern that these changes will allow the 32 London Boroughs and the City of London flexibility to make unspecified changes to the concessions without consultation.

Campaigners are concerned that:
·        The “reserve powers” currently held by the Mayor of London to settle any dispute about the scheme’s future cost with Transport for London (TfL), would be handed to an “independent” arbitrator – who would not be accountable to Londoners. 
·        Certain overground train services could be removed from the current concession; seriously weakening the Freedom Pass and future services.
·        The plans would allow any single council to invoke the arbitrator - not a majority of London Councils - creating a recipe for outside political intervention every year and the constant danger of cuts in services.

Barry Todman, chairman of the NPC Greater London region said: “The Freedom Pass is enjoyed by 1.2m older Londoners and disabled people – and provides a lifeline for many who otherwise would be isolated and lose their independence. Very few local councillors seem to know about the changes – and the whole thing is being done without proper consultation of local people. It’s clearly an attempt to weaken the Freedom Pass by the back door.”

The NPC is calling on its members to lobby their local authorities and urge them to oppose the plans.

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